The Toronto Star reports on the 10th anniversary of blogging with a message to those who believe that blogging will replace traditional journalism and to those who think amateurism is ruining culture (summon the whipping boy, Andrew Keen!). Their message: “Both are wrong.”
Writers David Eaves and Taylor Owen argue that the same forces that drive people to traditional and authoritative sources drive blog readers. And here is the best answer to the overpopulation argument against blogs that I’ve heard in ages: “Because blogs are cheaper to maintain they will always be numerous, but this makes them neither unique nor more likely to be read regularly.”
It’s refreshing to see an article that isn’t so polarized–as much of the “noble amateurs” versus “neo-Luddites” debate has become. You can’t take either of these gentlemen at face value, of course. They are both journalists and get paid for their work; they have an interest in the journalism establishment’s survival, yet I believe them.
I’m in a unique position to understand that blogging will not replace journalism. I came to blogging first and journalism second. With no journalism training I landed a job as a reporter in Bozeman, and since then I have enrolled myself in a self-taught journalism course. I’ve learned that there is far more to journalism than there is to blogging–the biggest difference being the amount of original research that goes into each writing session. Journalists conduct interviews and consult public records. Bloggers, in general, read news reports and write from those; and there is nothing wrong with that if we remember that a blog is a Web log, a chronicle of the links we have traveled in cyberspace.
I have also learned the value of a name. When I call someone and tell them who I work for, it lends me some of that newspaper’s credibility. The name gets my foot in the door. If I called the same source in the city manager’s office and told them I wrote for a blog that nobody but a few specific people in a very specified field of interest have heard of, how far will I get with that interview?
No, blogging will not replace journalism. But it will act as a valuable supplement to journalism and as a more anonymous public forum for discussing the news. Will the print world feel the pinch of lost customers? Of course, and they already have. That doesn’t signal an end of traditional journalism as much as it tells me that we’ve got to rethink our traditions and adapt them to fit the new reality of the world.